Jen’s Top 10 Favorite Adult Fiction

I thought I would have fun today and do another Top 10 list. Today’s focus: my favorite adult fiction books. This includes a variety of sub genres (fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.). So sit back and enjoy! And if you haven’t read these yet, go read them!

**Warning to lit critics: Please, do not get upset with me. This list is on the lighter and, admittedly, more commercial side of life. But, I assure you, all of these are good/entertaining reads. So, thank you in advance for not judging me too harshly :-).

1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

tumblr_luaw2lcnxc1qcb6a5The Book of What? Maybe you’ve heard of this book, maybe you haven’t. I happened to discover it while browsing the shelves at The Tattered Cover (the bright red cover popped out at me and I immediately knew I had to have it). It was gamble that paid off. I found myself swiftly ensnared by the 12-year old David and his harrowing journey into adulthood. The whole time I was reading, I was wondering if what David was experiencing was real, or not–if the fantastical adventure he was on was actually happening, or if he was dreaming the whole thing.

In a way, The Book of Lost Things reminds me of a darker, twisted version of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, only we visit a disturbing fantasy land that’s filled with the fairy tales we thought we knew, but don’t (i.e. Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood). It’s been five years since I read The Book of Lost Things and I’m still thinking about it. It’s one of those books I know I’ll have on my bookshelf for the rest of my life.

Read it, read it, read it!

For more details, click here.

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

554286I loved this book when I was a child and my dad used to read it to me before bed. I loved this book in high school when I read it for the first time on my own. And I love this book now, years later, when I go back to revisit my favorite Middle-Earth characters and their quirky, adventurous lives.

Now, some of you may be hesitant to pick this book up because you think it’ll be confusing, hard to read, and slow paced. But I assure you, The Hobbit is fun, witty and a swift page turner. It’s a book for all generations, meant to be enjoyed again and again. So go read it! It’s sure to be a classic that stays with you your whole life.

For more details, click here.

3. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett 

5826This was one of those subtly amazing books. The type you don’t realize you’ve fallen in love with until you turn the last page and feel empty and lost because it’s over.

From the rebel’s violent attack on the elite dinner party, to the surprisingly poignant relationships formed between terrorists and captives, to the fateful ending, Bel Canto sinks its sweet claws into you and won’t let go. It’s lyrical, enthralling and a true testament to the human spirit. This quote says it best: “That moment when you finish a book, look around, and realize that everyone is just carrying on with their lives as though you didn’t just experience emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback.”

For more details, click here.

4. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein 

3153910Let me start off by saying I love dogs, but I’m not a huge fan of stories about them. To me, they have tragedy and ultimate sadness written all over them. You know–you just know–the dog is going to die. And what’s sadder than a dog dying? Seriously? Whenever I watch a movie and I see a human and dog in mortal peril, I pray for the dog. “Dear God, not the dog. Kill little Billy, but not Fido. Please!”

However, I made an exception for The Art of Racing in the Rain. A good family friend gave it to me as a gift, and after asking me multiple times if I had read it yet, I finally succumbed and read it. And I’m so happy I did! This is a wonderful story, told entirely from the narrative of a wise, funny and philosophical dog, Enzo.

I’m not going to lie, there were sad moments, but there were also many uplifting, heartwarming, cheer-worthy moments. And–after wiping my tears away–I was smiling at the end and telling everyone they needed to read it. So you should too!

For more details, click here.

5. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

7315573I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, which is strange because I love history (shrug). However, Fall of Giants kept me snagged from page one, all the way to page 960. Yes, like Follet’s other epic reads, most notably The Pillars of the Earth, this tale was a doozy. But I couldn’t put it down! In fact, I unthinkingly started it right before I was set to leave for a week-long beach vacation. Since I don’t own a tablet or e-book reader, I made the difficult decision to leave the two-ton book behind and take a couple  lighter, easier to transport ones.

Then, as I was walking out the front door to head to the airport, I realized I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Fall of Giants at home–I swear, it was looking at me like a sad puppy whimpering, “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me”. So, I stuffed it in my bag and shouldered the extra weight. And I don’t regret my decision at all…except for accidentally getting sand and saltwater all over it. Then again, I spilled coffee on it a week later too, so…Poor “puppy”.

Let’s just say Fall of Giants is a well loved book in my household now. And it should be loved in yours too!

For more details, click here.

6. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 

43641I did not want to read this book. I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t! But every time I went to the bookstore or Target or someone’s house, I saw it. It mocked me everywhere I went, torturing me with its colorful cover and proclamations that it was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Still, I stubbornly refused to buy it. I don’t know why, it just looked dull and boring and blah to me.

Then something terrible happened. I found out Water for Elephants was going to be made into a movie. Curse you Hollywood! I pursed my lips and trudged to the bookstore, determined to read the darn thing, just like I always do whenever a popular book is going to be adapted to the big screen. Book Nerd Rule #1: Always read the book before seeing the movie. Always, always! Even if you’re not planning on seeing the movie, read the book just in case!

So I did. And I loved it. Stupid, beautiful, wonderful Water for Elephants. Your reputation lived up to expectations–exceeded them. Grrr 😉 Don’t resist like I did. Check it out!

For more details, click here.

7. Perfect by Judith McNaught

129617-1Okay, fellas, turn away. I’ve got a romance here–some may even dare to call it a “trash novel”. But, not me. To me, Perfect is far from trash. It’s perfect ;-). The first time I read it was in high school. Since then, I’ve read it AT LEAST five more times. Every couple of years, I can’t resist rereading small town teacher Julie Mathison’s suspenseful, adventurous and heart-fluttering romance with ex-Hollywood superstar-now runaway fugitive, Zachary Benedict. Again and again, this story exhilarates, humors, and enthralls. And it never fails to make my heart skip a beat…or two.

If you end up reading and liking Perfect, make sure you check out Judith McNaught’s other novels (starting with A Kingdom of Dreams…sigh…hee, hee).

For more details, click here.

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 

4667024Yes, of course I included The Help on this list. Because it rocked!

Honestly, I can’t even remember reading this book, or who told me to read it, or why I didn’t resist reading it like I do so many big time, highly publicized books (ahem, Water for Elephants). I just know that I read it and I loved it and I think everyone else should read it too! Plus, from a writer’s standpoint, I love Kathryn Stockett’s personal journey to find this book an agent. Rejection after rejection she refused to give up on it, and she proved to the rest of us struggling writers that if you’re passionate enough to fulfill your dream, you can.

For more details, click here.

9. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith 

2161733I happened to find this book–hardback and brand new–at a garage sale. I paid one buck for it. ONE BUCK! But trust me, it is worth full retail price. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction and I’m not a huge fan of mystery. However, this book was both, and I LOVED it, which proves that it is, indeed, a worthy read. It’s an edge of your seat, stomach-twisting, palm sweating story that keeps you turning page after page. And, as an American, it makes me appreciate my daily freedoms and lifestyle.

For more details, click here.

10. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella 

75576Once again fellas you may not be keen on this choice of mine, but who knows? Maybe you’re one of those guys who secretly enjoys romantic comedies? (I know there are a lot of you out there, even if you are hiding.) Well, this is by far my favorite chick-lit book. Like most of Sophie Kinsella stories, Can you Keep a Secret? is heart warming, hilarious and, at times, utterly ridiculous. But, I love its goofy premise and especially its shake-your-head-and-roll-your-eyes-at characters.

This is one book I wish they’d make into a movie. I think it would be outstanding on the big screen. I know I’d definitely pay to go see it (after making sure everyone reads the book first, of course).

For more details, click here.

So, that’s it! I’m certain this list will change over time as I read more books, but for now, these are my favorite adult fiction books. Hope you add them to your TBR list!

How about you? What are your personal favorites?

Confession: I Have Bad Habits When I Write

On Saturday, I had one goal in mind: Write! Write, write, write! Nothing was going to stop me. Nothing! Not Twitter, Facebook, blogs. My blog (doh!).


Well, after eight hours, I’d written exactly two chapters. You heard me. Two! Well, if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t write two NEW chapters. I revised two. How horrible is that? Two stinkin’ chapters that I’d already written and wanted to perfect. Lame!

Even worse, I totally had motivation to write. Every time I turned to my manuscript, I was sooo THERE. I’d start typing and be like, “Oh, that’s good!” and, “Wow, where’d that come from?”, and, best of all, “God, I rock. High five, Self!”

And, yet, all I did was revise two chapters.


In. Eight. Hours!

This lack of productivity got me thinking about all the bad habits I have whenever I sit down to write. And, man oh man, do I have a lot 😦So many, in fact, that I was forced to condense them into three main categories.

Bad Habit #1

“Ready. Set. G–Ooh, look! A shiny penny!”


I feel like a distracted two-year old when I sit down to write. Even though I’m pumped up and ready to go, my mind and body immediately wander away. No joke, the second I open my manuscript, I get antsy and feel a need to do something–anything–else. Clean the house. Take out the trash. Workout. Get the mail. Or, my personal favorite, pull a James Stewart and study my neighbors through my rear window as they go about their daily business (don’t deny it, you do it too; people are funny to watch). And, of course, I check Facebook, Twitter and, worst of all, Pinterest! Oh Pinterest…

please-stand-by…And I’m back!

Over time, I’ve figured out this ADD-like habit is always worse when I either start a new project or revise an older one for the billionth time. Starting a brand new story is like throwing a pile of clay on a table. It’s all mushy and muddy and shapeless, and you’ve gotta roll up your sleeves and mold it into something pretty and special. Ugh. So much work! And revising an old manuscript is like taking that already finished sculpture and smashing it to pieces, again and again, until you’re so tired of gluing it back together, you just want to leave it shattered and broken.

So, how do I deal with this problem? Leave the house and head down the street to the library or the Tattered Cover Bookstore cafe. Both are quiet (unless Mr. Loves To Talk On His Phone Loudly decides to sit next to me and then proceeds to ignore my I’m-going-to-stab-you-in-the-eyeball-with-my-pen scowl). And both are usually filled with people who are working hard, which encourages me to focus and work hard too.

Bad Habit #2

Feed Me! Feed Me!

Greed,_1924,_06_banchettoI’m proud to say that I lead a healthy lifestyle. I exercise four to five days a week, and I keep a close eye on my diet.

Except for when I write.

When that happens you better WATCH OUT! I may accidentally nibble on your arm because I think it’s a drumstick. I mean it. The minute I open the creative gates of my mind, all I want to do is chow down. Just shovel it in and never stop! And Lord save me if there’s chocolate around, especially Peanut M&M’s. If I kept those sinfully sweet suckers in the house, I’d quickly transform into Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory(after she expands into a giant blueberry, of course).

1971_violet_blueberry_cute_pic_by_tofer17-d2yew2fI’ve learned the best ways to combat this ravenous habit of mine are to: 1) Stock the house with healthy food. NO chocolate allowed! 2) Chew lots and lots of gum and drink plenty of water. And/or 3) Once again, leave the house and drive down the road to the food-less library. Tattered Cover Bookstore is fine too as long as I don’t take my wallet in with me. I can’t resist those chocolate chip cookies or mocha lattes. Ooh…cookies…


…And onwards we go! (Don’t worry, I’m not getting crumbs all over my computer. I finished my cookie in the car like a good girl.)

Bad Habit #3:


deviant_id_12_15_11_by_therealjmj-d4j6hthHello, nice to meet you. My name is Hermione Granger.

Okay, I’m not quite that bad, but close. I’ve always had a tough time just writing. No stopping, no criticizing, no over-analyzing every single word or musing idea thought. Just write, write, write!

But. I. Can’t!

Everyone in the business says, “Write now. Revise later.” My perfectionist brain says, “Write now–no, no, no! ‘You’re saying it wrong’. Go back and revise, stupid.”

have to come up with the perfect right exact word now. I have to do a Google search to confirm there is, indeed, a sushi restaurant within a mile of my protagonist’s high school. I have to think of an original analogy (because “she’s as quiet as a mouse,” sucks). It’s awful horrid ridiculous! All those eensy-weensy details mock and taunt me, even during a first draft when they’re basically insignificant. I’ll make it five chapters and then screech to a halt because I realize something that happened in Chapter 4 doesn’t line up with something that now happens in Chapter 25. So I go back and revise. Then I realize the new thing in Chapter 4 now conflicts with an event in Chapter 1. So I go back and revise Chapter 1. And, hey, wouldn’t you know it? With Chapter 1 rewritten the rest of the book makes no sense!

Start over! Start over!

And I do. Every time I stumble and fall into a deep, dark plot hole I grumble under my breath and rush back to the chapter where the fault first occurred–which, inevitably leads me back to an earlier chapter to fix something else–which inevitably leads me back to the first chapter–which inevitably leads me to say, “Oh, eff it!” and I start over. Again!

It’s a vicious domino effect.

Why, brain, why??

annoyed2Honestly, I annoy myself.

The upside to all of this is that–by some miracle–I still manage to get work done (ahem, some days more than others), and I have discovered successful strategies that help me minimize and cope with these bad writing habits (hey, I haven’t turned into a giant blueberry yet have I?). And, more than anything, I know that no amount of tempting chocolate or amusing neighbors or infuriating “Hermione Granger” moments will stop me from doing what I love most: Write.